Readings: Genesis 22: 1-19, Psalm 13, John 3: 14-21
If I had asked six months ago what the things were in your life that you valued the most, I wonder how many of us would give the same answers to the same question at this moment in our lives. In times of plenty, I think that the things we consider valuable would tend towards things of comfort and the things of ease. In times of turmoil, the things we believe hold more value for us would be those things that will stand when everything else fails. When it is going well, I spend my energy on things that will appear a little superfluous in those times when things are not going well. When I have everything I need, then the things I want become the currency by which I determine the value of my life, but when I do not have everything I need; the things I need are most sought after.
When I am healthy, my possessions are valuable but when I am sick, my possessions are not that significant because my health is more important than my savings account. When I have my family around me, I can spend my time on my hobbies, but when my family is not around me, then all of my emotional strength goes into gathering them around me.
I think that in this season, many of us had hoped we would come out of the pandemic the same way we went in, but I think for many of us, we have come to discover the value of life, the value of health, the value of family, the value of being together. When there is a possibility that those we love will die, we are hopefully more particular about how we use our time generally and more specifically about how we use our time together. We have so many things that we need to do that can’t wait to be done and our life becomes consumed by the next thing that needs to be done by yesterday until there is a crisis, such as the one we face globally, and then everything that needs to be done is kind of put into perspective and we are reminded of what is most valuable to us.
Abraham valued Isaac and in God’s asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to Him, we discover a complete lack of internal dialogue that would give us a clue as to what was happening with Abraham’s value system at the time. Maybe Abraham assumed that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Maybe Abraham assumed that God would provide an alternative sacrifice. Maybe Abraham knew that God could not revoke a promise that He had made. Whatever Abraham’s thoughts or convictions, we find here that Abraham valued God’s instruction enough to offer the son he valued because it was God who gave Isaac to them. Isaac is the son of a promise, but God is the One who made the promise and saw it fulfilled. Even though Abraham did not understand God very well, he was in awe of God.
God values life and holds community as the most valuable commodity because in community we are able to flourish and thrive and worship God freely. As Abraham valued his son, so God valued His Son. God the Son offered His life willingly to ensure that death would have no hold over the people of God. The Father did not sacrifice the Son because God gave Himself up for all of life so that none of His creation would have to fear death. Let us not cheapen that sacrifice by holding any less value for life and community than God holds for life and community. All lives do matter, but our preference always needs to be given to those whose lives are most vulnerable in any given moment, to those whose lives are not regarded as valuable by others. Those who can take care of themselves need to take care of those who cannot.